Access Easements Might Allow More Than Just Access
Easements are common in community associations, and, especially when high-value property is involved, can lead to costly litigation. Associations and owners may feel confident about the rights an easement conveys when they agree to it, but, as a North Carolina case recently demonstrated, easements are subject to expansion.
That court, for example, that found an access easement wasn’t limited solely to ingress and egress across a property.
The case holds valuable lessons that go beyond just the easement arena. “This is one of those diamonds in the rough that I send to managers to let them know it’s something they need to think about,” Wilson says.
The HOA at issue is an oceanfront residential subdivision. The association and its members enjoyed an access easement, owned by the community’s developer, across one of the lots in the subdivision. The developer referenced the easement in its recorded plat and subsequently built a tiki bar, bathrooms, and other improvements on it.
The developer sold the lot in 2001; a decade later, those purchasers sold it to new owners. The improvements already were in place and in use by then.
Five years later, when the HOA contemplated additional improvements to the easement, the owners objected. The HOA responded that the easement was a common element owned by the association, so the association didn’t require their permission to add improvements.
After continued resistance from the owners, the association filed a lawsuit against them. The owners counterclaimed.
To find out who prevailed and the implications for other associations, read our new article, Court Upholds HOA’s Right to Tiki Bar on Access Easement.